By Sheila Dang, Katie Paul and Martin Coulter
(Reuters) -Twitter Inc temporarily closed its offices and cut workers' access to internal systems on Friday after telling employees they would be informed by email about whether they were being laid off.
The move follows a week of chaos and uncertainty about the company's future under new owner Elon Musk.
The social media company said in an email to staff it would tell them by 9 a.m. Pacific time on Friday (12 p.m. EDT/1600 GMT) about staff cuts.
"In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday," said the email sent on Thursday, seen by Reuters.
Musk, the world's richest person, is looking to cut around 3,700 Twitter staff, or about half the workforce, as he seeks to slash costs and impose a demanding new work ethic, according to internal plans reviewed by Reuters this week.
Staff who worked in engineering, communications, product and content curation were among those impacted by the layoffs, according to tweets from Twitter staff.
Musk has promised to restore free speech while preventing Twitter from descending into a "hellscape." However, his reassurances have failed to prevent major advertisers from threatening to withdraw from the platform.
Volkswagen has recommended its brands to pause paid advertising on Twitter until further notice in the wake of Musk's takeover, it said on Friday. Its comments echoed similar remarks from other firms, including General Motors and General Mills.
Musk blamed civil rights activists' pressure on advertisers for a "massive drop in revenue" in a tweet on Friday morning. "Extremely messed up! They're (civil right groups) trying to destroy free speech in America."
Speaking at an investors conference in New York on Friday, Musk called the activist pressure "an attack on the First Amendment."
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
ACCESS TO SYSTEMS CUT
Some staff tweeted they lost access to work email and Slack channels before receiving an official notice, which they took as a sign they had been laid off.
Twitter's "curation" team, which is responsible for "highlighting and contextualizing the best events and stories that unfold on Twitter", has been axed, employees said on the platform. The company's communications team in India has also been laid off, according to a Twitter executive in Asia
A team that focused on research into how Twitter employed algorithms, an issue that was a priority for Musk, was also eliminated, according to a tweet from former senior manager at Twitter.
Senior executives including vice president of engineering Arnaud Weber also said their goodbyes on Twitter on Friday: "Twitter still has a lot of unlocked potential but I'm proud of what we accomplished," he tweeted.
Employees of Twitter Blue, the premium subscription that Musk is bolstering, were also let go. An employee with the handle "SillyRobin" who had indicated they were laid off, quote-tweeted Musk's previous tweet saying Twitter Blue would include "paywall bypass" for certain publishers.
"Just to be clear, he fired the team working on this," the employee said.
Some staff reported losing access to internal systems and being unable to message goodbyes to colleagues.
"Looks like I’m unemployed y’all. Just got remotely logged out of my work laptop and removed from Slack," tweeted a user with the account @SBkcrn, whose profile is described as former senior community manager at Twitter.
Twitter hired consulting firm KPMG in some international markets, including in Asia, to assist with the layoffs, according to one person familiar with the manner.
Twitter employees vented their frustrations about the layoffs on the social network, using the hashtag #OneTeam.
User Rachel Bonn tweeted: "Last Thursday in the SF (San Francisco) office, really the last day Twitter was Twitter. 8 months pregnant and have a 9 month old. Just got cut off from laptop access."
Responding to the #OneTeam thread, Twitter's Head of Safety & Integrity Yoel Roth, said: "Tweeps: My DMs (direct message routes) are always open to you. Tell me how I can help."
Roth was the most senior executive to message publicly with a tweet of support for staff who are losing their jobs. He also appeared to still have his job. Last week, Musk endorsed Roth, citing his "high integrity" after he was called out over tweets critical of former U.S. President Donald Trump years earlier.
Roth and Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.
Twitter said in the email that its offices would be temporarily closed and all badge access suspended in order "to help ensure the safety of each employee as well as Twitter systems and customer data."
The company's office in Piccadilly Circus, London, appeared deserted on Friday, with no employees in sight.
Inside, any evidence the social media giant had once occupied the building had been erased. Security staff said there were ongoing refurbishments, refusing to comment further.
The company said employees who were not affected by the layoffs would be notified via their work email addresses. Staff who had been laid off would be notified with next steps to their personal email addresses, the memo said.
A member of security staff at Twitter's Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) headquarters in Dublin told reporters that nobody was coming into the office on Friday and employees had been told to stay home.
Another member of security staff locked the revolving doors at the front of the building where around 500 members of staff worked before the layoffs began.
A class action lawsuit was filed on Thursday against Twitter by its employees, who argued the company was conducting mass layoffs without providing the required 60-day advance notice, in violation of federal and California law.
The lawsuit also asked the San Francisco federal court to issue an order to restrict Twitter from soliciting employees being laid off to sign documents without informing them of the pendency of the case.
(Reporting by Sheila Dang, Katie Paul, Paresh Dave, Fanny Potkin, Rusharti Mukherjee, Aditya Kalra, Martin Coulter, Hyunjoo Jin, Supantha Mukherjee and Arriana McLymore; Writing by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Mark Potter, Jason Neely and Kenneth Li)Click Here To Get Funded!